GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota football team's offense, under first-year offensive coordinator Danny Freund, has been a work in progress this season as it transitions from a power, run-oriented game of previous years to a spread, pass-friendly system.
Perhaps as expected, the unit's production has been up and down through the first five weeks of the regular season.
One area, however, that has been consistently strong is UND's red-zone offense.
The Fighting Hawks are one of the nation's leaders in the red zone, scoring on 16 of 17 trips inside the 20-yard line. The only attempt in the red zone that was unsuccessful came in the fourth quarter of last week's 38-36 win over UC Davis when kicker Brady Leach missed a 36-yard field goal.
"Our execution has been good," UND quarterback Nate Ketteringham said. "When we get down there, it boosts our morale and we just say 'let's punch it in and finish this drive.' "
Not only has UND been coming away with points in the red zone, but the Hawks are scoring touchdowns. Of the 16 scores in the red zone, 15 are touchdowns.
The only team in the FCS still hitting at 100% in the red zone this year is, oddly enough, Idaho State, which is UND's opponent Saturday, Oct. 12, at 2:05 p.m. at Holt Arena in Pocatello.
The Bengals are 11-for-11 in the red zone but ISU has settled for field goals more often than UND. The Bengals have a split of six touchdowns and five field goals.
After Idaho State's perfect mark, UND is one of 13 teams in the country to have just one miss in the red zone this season.
The reasoning for UND's red-zone success is multiple. For starters, UND has a power running back in James Johannesson, a senior who checks in at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds.
Johannesson had a rushing touchdown in all four of UND's first four games this year. He would've made that a fifth straight against UC Davis, but the Minnesota Gophers transfer fumbled at the goal line, then center Patric Rooney jumped on the ball for a 14-0 UND lead.
After Johannesson, UND's strength in the red zone is due to the Hawks' size at wide receiver. UND's big three wideouts -- Noah Wanzek, Travis Toivonen and Garett Maag -- are nearly identical in size. All three are listed at 6-foot-4, with Toivonen at 212 pounds, Wanzek at 210 and Maag at 206.
Add into those receiving options UND tight end Alex Cloyd, who is 6-4 and 251 pounds. Cloyd caught UND's first touchdown in the red zone against Davis.
A year ago, UND's red-zone success was just 75 percent (33-for-44).
"It really helps you when you go down there and score touchdowns and don't have to settle for field goals," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We've tried to find some matchups that are favorable and our quarterbacks have found those matchups. Also, for the most part, we've taken care of the football in the red zone."
UND at Idaho State
When: 2:05 p.m., Saturday
Where: Pocatello, Idaho
Radio: 96.1 FM
Records: UND 3-2; Idaho State 2-3